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The 2001 Ukrainian Population Census indicated that Ukraine is home to representatives of almost 130 nationalities. It is compromised of approximately 77% ethnic Ukrainians, 17% ethnic Russians and the remaining 6% in decreasing order of their numbers by Belarusians, Crimean Tatars, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Jews etc.

In the households categorized as of ethnic Russian descent, many of them are now into their second and third generation as Ukrainian “natives”. Today, many of those are proud Ukrainians. You see them on the streets of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk and throughout Ukraine, protesting in support of the Maidan while risking harsh retributions for their stance. These ethnic Russians have shown that although they may celebrate their heritage as Russians, they have become a part of Ukrainian society. This is much like the children and grandchildren of a variety of Diasporas around the world. They are Canadians, Americans and Europeans, but they still have strong connections to the heritage of their forefathers.

It is not an issue that the minority of the population which is ethnic Russian prefers to use their ancestral language. Or even that they still harbor allegiances to their family legacies. It is more that although they are only a small percent of the nation’s population, they hold a disproportionally high rate of positions of power throughout the country. And, of those of which are charting the direction of the nation’s future, they are the even smaller minority of that 17%, who have shown a preference to the post-Soviet social order rather than that of the modern Ukrainian society. A country can not have a democratic future when it does not have a government representative of its people. One of the authors of America’s Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said, “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”

In today’s Ukraine, the majority of the population does not feel a part of their government. That is why most of the recent polling data shows that any of the opposition leaders could beat Yanukovych in a free & fair election. That is why for months now, in cities across Ukraine, millions have taken to their streets in protests demanding a government for the many and not one that serves only the privileged few.

It is not xenophobia, the fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, that brings up the pro Russian question. It is the fear that a sliver of the ethnic Russian population, who although they choose to live in Ukraine, refuse to become Ukrainian. It is the hatred that they would rather strong arm the nation in direction it has no desire to go, than become part of the nation and help it flourish. It the sadness that they insist on being strangers and foreigners in the place they call home. They are a small, tightly woven, corrupt, pro-Russian gang which is hijacking the future of Ukraine.

Alex Stepchuk

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